The Special Service Area (SSA) program is an economic development tool that establishes a taxing district with specific boundaries. Property owners in that district pay an incremental property tax to fund services such as sidewalk maintenance, landscaping, security and local business advertising. There are currently 43 active SSAs in Chicago with an aggregate budget of approximately $23 million.
SSAs are created through an application process. A sponsoring agency (usually the future Service Provider Agency of the SSA) interested in establishing an SSA completes an application which includes economic analyses and demonstrated public support amongst the owners and leasers of the affected properties. Once the SSA application is reviewed by the City’s Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) and approved by City Council, the local aldermen and sponsoring agency nominate SSA Commissioners. Once confirmed by City Council, the SSA Commissioners, in turn, select a Service Provider Agency which manages the daily operations of the SSA and works with vendors to procure the SSA services.
Each SSA is funded by its own incremental tax rate applied to the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of properties within the SSA. Although the tax rate in any given year may vary depending on the tax revenues needed to deliver the budgeted services, the rate may not exceed the particular SSA’s authorized tax rate cap which is set during the creation of each SSA. SSA budgets are reviewed annually by DHED and approved by the SSA Commissioners and City Council.